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CAREN network to modernise Internet access for ancient Silk Road

The development of a high-capacity, yet cost-effective, regional research and education network in Asia is high on the EU agenda. Officials in Brussels want less-developed countries to get connected to the outside world and exchange information more easily with their peers els...

The development of a high-capacity, yet cost-effective, regional research and education network in Asia is high on the EU agenda. Officials in Brussels want less-developed countries to get connected to the outside world and exchange information more easily with their peers elsewhere. The CAREN ('Central Asia research and education network') project is meeting this challenge head on and producing fruitful results. Launched in January of this year, CAREN has received EUR 5 million in funding from the Europe Aid Cooperation Office (AIDCO) for the period from 2009 to 2011. The Central Asian National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) are providing additional financial support. CAREN is being managed by the global research networking organisation DANTE (Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe). Various large-scale projects, funded in part by the EU, are coordinated by DANTE. A total of 1 million students and researchers in more than 200 universities and research centres along the ancient Silk Road in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will have access to high-capacity Internet links, effectively bridging the communication gap - both locally and abroad - and promoting regional development and cohesion. The high-speed pan-European GÉANT network will make this possible. The former Kazakh capital city of Almaty was the site for two recent high-profile CAREN meetings - an executive committee meeting and the maiden Steering Group meeting - that focused on the progress of the network. The Steering Group, chaired by the European Commission, underlined how significant the CAREN project is to the region and beyond. 'The CAREN network is a unique project that will better connect the researchers of the EU and central Asia,' commented Ambassador Norbert Jousten, Head of the Delegation of the European Commission. 'We very much welcome this initiative and the benefits it will bring.' The partners believe CAREN will contribute extensively to current and future projects that cover a number of areas including telemedicine, environmental monitoring, e-learning and palaeontology. CAREN is expected to go live early next year. The partners are now submitting a bid for a terrestrial broadband network that will offer better connectivity via a steadier but low-cost network infrastructure. Their network will replace existing links from the satellite-based, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)-funded Virtual Silk Highway project (also known as the 'SILK project'), which provides Internet access to researchers in central Asia and the southern Caucasus. The partners say CAREN is based on EU-led research network programmes such as the Trans-Eurasia Information Network (TEIN) that connects some 4,000 institutions with over 30 million end-users in 10 countries of the Asia Pacific region. Building on the success of TEIN, the EU provided further financial support to kick-start the TEIN2 and TEIN3 networks, effectively linking up more countries from the south Asian region. 'Today's research community needs to be truly global if it is to solve the challenges mankind faces,' said Dai Davies, General Manager of DANTE. 'The creation of the CAREN network is a natural progression in fostering worldwide collaboration. We welcome the addition of the skills and knowledge of central Asian researchers to the global research community.' For his part, Professor Askar Kutanov, regional coordinator of CAREN, said: 'By recreating the links of the old Silk Road between East and West, we will be able to benefit from increased collaboration and the ability to cooperate with our colleagues across the globe.'

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